Chevrolet Cruze is the leader on the compact market, but how long will this last?

Article by Christian Andrei, on September 27, 2011

The Chevrolet Cruze, which was launched a year ago, is now leading the compact market, placing the flagship brand of General Motors in unfamiliar territory. Analysts who are accustomed to criticizing the compact vehicles of GM have widely praised the Cruze. For one, Consumer Reports acclaimed it as "greatly improved" over its predecessor, the Cobalt.

The success of Cruze comes as the compact market widens in profitability and size, with more customers choosing models with higher trim levels. For five consecutive months through August, the Cruze was the top-selling compact in the United States, beating both Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla as they struggled with shortages in components due to the March earthquake in Japan.

Data reveal that some Japanese-brand buyers strayed to the Cruze, which is now in fierce competition with the Corolla, which has led annual sales since 2003, says Autonews.

Steve Hurley, dealer principal of Stingray Chevrolet outside Tampa, Fla., shared that prior to the launch of the Cruze, he bought three rival compact vehicles for his clients to comparison shop: the Civic, the Ford Focus and the Corolla. He stated that he had never been as confident to put a vehicle up against direct competitors as he was with the Cruze.

So far, the market is in favor of the Cruze. However, production at Honda and Toyota is coming back. In addition, Ford Motor Co. is finally increasing inventories for its redesigned Focus. Analyst Aaron Bragman at IHS Automotive said, "It's going to be a fight," adding that GM is now "better armed" compared to the past.

The attention to detail given on the exterior of the Chevy Cruze, and even the strong design cues, can also be experienced in the interior. It has a twin-cockpit theme that is clearly inspired by the Corvette and this is complemented with the use of high-quality materials and excellent tolerances of its assembly. It is clear though when looking at the build quality that precision was excellent.

The body for example was assembled at its Lordstown facility as its body shop has been enhanced to utilize the latest equipment in welding and body-framing and thus optimize how the body structure is manufactured. As result of having a strong structure, there was less need for production variance and gap tolerances for many of the panels in the exterior were at most 3 mm. What this means for the customer is that the car has a better appearance and remains reliable years after it was bought.

Unlike its rivals, the Cruze is longer and wider. The tight and rigid bodywork give it a solid look while the restrained use of improvements on the exterior trim ensured that it had a sense of high quality. Overall, the Cruze has a look that shows purposeful precision. What makes the Cruze unique is the bold face that includes the famous Bowtie logo and two-tier grille, which is the company’s trademark look. Its roofline curves and links with the steeply-raked windshield and even the fast-slanting pillars in the rear.

This gives the Cruze its sporty proportions that are similar to the coupe. Continuing this athletic look are the headlamp housings that are now more pronounced and covers the corners while going upward in the sculpted hood and fenders. It even has a short deck in the rear, as what can be expected from a sports coupe.

The wheels have been placed at its corners with little or no overhangs in the front and the back. All the different elements manage to combine in order for the Cruze to have an aggressive appearance which matches its confident stance.

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